Friday, November 18, 2005

Ottawa 4 Florida 1

THE GOOD:

Turning around the powerplay. It feels good to be able to say that. I’d love to trump myself as a genius for coming up with the idea of putting Chris Neil back on the PP, but it was hardly all that innovative. Regardless, it worked. It would be foolish to credit Neil entirely with the rejuvenated powerplay, but he was certainly very effective in his role of standing in front of the net and giving Roberto Luongo a headache. But even beyond Neil, the team was world’s better with the man advantage last night than they’ve been over the last week or so. And a lot of the reason was simply going back to the basics. Moving the puck with speed, creating traffic, winning the battles for loose pucks along the boards. Stuff they teach in minor hockey. The Sens just weren’t doing that as of late, and it showed on the scoresheet at the end of every game how effective straying from simplicity fairs. It’s still not perfect, as I felt like some of the defencemen (*cough* Brian Pothier cough) were a little sloppy when handling the puck at the point, which resulted in some plays having to come out of the zone and be re-set up. But on the whole, it was a step in the right direction. I was a little worried that if they failed to score on the PP, but were still playing better when up a man, they would get discouraged and fall back into their old “let’s be the 80’s Oilers” habits, but alas, they stuck with it, and it paid off with two in the net.

Showing respect to Jacques Martin. I was a little worried how this would go. When listening to the local sports talk radio shows over the couple days leading up to last night’s contest, I heard a mixed bag of responses to the question about how to treat the former bench boss of the Sens upon arrival with his new club. Most, like me, felt like it was best to recognize that Jacques was a major part of this team’s growth from a the pretender of all pretenders to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for the last few years of his reign. However, some said that because Jacques was, in their mind, the reason they lost all those times in the post season to the Leafs, paying him any sort of tribute would be ridiculous. And so I was glad to see which side won out last night. When a picture of Martin was put onto the scoreboard screen with the title “thanks for nine years”, the majority of the Corel Centre cheered.

Wade Redden. In addition to his three points (all assists), which gives Redden 17 points in as many games making him one of only four blueliners who have averaged a point a game, Redds was excellent in all facets of the game. He was a big part of why the powerplay turned around as he was moving the puck and quarterbacking the efforts excellently. As well, in his own zone, Redden was strong positionally.

Antoine Vermette. This may have been the best game Ashton Kutcher’s paparazzi decoy has had all season. He was strong on the forecheck and finishing his checks with authority. It was nice to see him get rewarded for his efforts with a late goal. With four goals in 17 games, Vermette probably isn’t producing as much as both he and the organization would like, but if he continues to play like this, and if the Peter Schaefer-Vermette-Martin Havlat line stays together playing the way they are as a trio, he’ll have a big year.

THE BAD:

The excitement of the game. If you were trying to lure a disgruntled fan who swore off the NHL due to the lockout back by showing them it really is a new NHL with a game, this wouldn’t have been the one to use. In fact, it was probably even a bad game by the standards of the old NHL.

Andrej Meszaros. I guess it was inevitable the 20-year-old rookie would have an off night. So far this season he’s been fantastic, and has maybe even leap frogged Brian Pothier on the depth already already, but he is still a rookie. Bad games are going to happen. Last night was one of ‘em. He was terrible in his coverage in the defensive zone, and on one play in particular, was standing around watching as the Panthers were swarming around the net.

Jason Spezza’s cutesy plays. In some way, I think that wonderful overtime winner against Montreal a few weeks back has been the worst thing for Spezza. It got him on all the highlight shows and made him the talk of the league for that little while. Since, Spezza has gone into overdrive with the “watch me undress this guy” moves, and they aren’t working. Nine times out of 10, they won’t. It just so happened that the goal against the Habs was the one occasion it did. I’m all for creativity on the ice, but there’s a time and place for it. And if you have an easier pass available, take it. It won’t give you a HON Candidate on SportsCentre, but it will be effective. And if you are going to do these kind of things, make damn sure you’re backchecking your ass off when they lead to turnovers. Spezza redeemed himself somewhat with a spectacular pass on one of Alfredsson’s goals, but this problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

THE OPPOSITION:

The 4-1 score is somewhat misleading because the game was not that one-sided. Florida did what Carolina I recommended on Tuesday but following Carolina’s path and making Ottawa play their game. No doubt about it, Jacques Martin did his thing. Florida took little chances, instead getting the first goal and sitting on that lead so hard Jacques Lemaire would’ve been proud. When Ottawa did have the puck, Florida stacked the blueline and made it nearly impossible for the Sens to enter their zone. It was more dump and chase action.

What you saw when Ottawa got their two goals to take the lead was what would’ve happened had Florida allowed Ottawa to play their game rather than vice versa. Florida was forced to start actually trying to score goals, and in the process, loosened their defence. It then turned into scoring chances galore for the Senators. It became abundantly clear that the Panthers are not suited for this new NHL where offence is at a premium. If they’re able to play like that every night, they might compete for a playoff spot, but with the new rules the way they are, I can’t see how teams won’t be able to bust it open. If Florida did not get that first goal last night, it would’ve been a whole different story. Of course, if Eric Cairns did not take that penalty late in the third, and then be stupid and yap too much to the referee to get a second penalty to go with it, it might’ve also been a different story as well, as it was only 1-1 at that point. Ottawa’ two powerplay goals put the game out of reach.

On an individual level, for Florida, I liked the games of young defencemen Mike Van Ryn (minus the time Alfredsson made a pylon out of him when the Sens were shorthanded) and Jay Bouwmeester as well as former Senator Sean Hill. They were a big part of why Ottawa’s forwards weren’t able to pounce on whatever rebounds Roberto Luongo gave up. Up front, few forwards were given much room to work, forced to play within the restrictive but effective system Martin used, so it’s difficult to judge how they were, but as far as play in both ends, Martin Gelinas and captain Olli Jokinen stood out to me. Of the few scoring chances the Panthers did have, Jokinen was almost always involved. He was around the net for most of the game, so it shouldn't be a surprise the one goal they netted was scored by Jokinen off a rebound the Sens didn't clear.

UP NEXT:

The homestand continues for the Senators as the New Jersey Devils come to the nation’s capital Saturday night. New Jersey has been an interesting team this season, hovering around .500 almost from the start. This is a franchise who’s winning pedigree over the last 10 years is second to none in the NHL. But when you have the kind of turnover in talent they do, losing their best two defencemen during that whole time, it’s bound to have an impact. Not having Patrick Elias, arguably their most gifted forward offensively, does hurt them. The Devils are the third lowest scoring team in the Eastern Conference, behind only the lowly Capitals and the ever exciting Panthers that are probably boarding a plane to leave now as I write. So I imagine they’ll employ a gameplan very similar to the one the Panthers used effectively for 40something minutes.

2 Comments:

At 7:35 AM, Anonymous pale said...

Was at the game - brother scored 100 level seats for the game. This was a game that Ottawa would have likely lost under Martin - team lower than them in the standings with a hot/good goalie.

Quick Hits:

Heatly - got some good chances - nice to see him completey p-o ed when he did not score. Oh yeah, streak continued.

Sean Hill - since when did he get so "tuff" - he was whacking and hacking after the play constantly. Also. nice to see former Sens Hill and Kiawokoskie in the box together to give Ottawa it's 5 on 3.

Chara - killed entire 1:45 5-3 - winning a face-off to clear the zone and blocking a shot with his foot and not getting off the ice.

Mezaros - didn't look that bad - Pothier can move the puck but sometimes he sets up the opposition in the slot.

Cairns - first star - for Ottawa. took his hand off the stick to hold off Havlat - that's a penalty in todays NHL - chirping and getting another won't get him in Martin's good book. Both goals off this penalties occured less than 20 seconds off the start.

Roberts - only noticed him going to the penaly box.

 
At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments about Spezza. He's been trying to be way too fancy lately, and is reverting to the form he had when he was (rightfully, IMO) in Jacques Martin's bad books. And at this rate, I'm sure he's not making the right impression to make his way onto team Canada. There are a lot of "on the bubble" guys I can see being picked ahead of Spezza (including Eric Staal).

Murray may be more forgiving as a coach than Martin was, but the way Spezza's playing right now, he is the weak link on what should be the best line in hockey.

Anshu

 

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